1. Your CV missed the mark
Many job seekers make the mistake of using the same generic unfocused CV to apply for very different positions in different industries. Your CV should to the extent possible be tailored to the specific job you are targeting and should show in a very direct manner skills, qualifications and experiences that directly come to bear on the given job. If you are targeting a number of different jobs, have different CVs for each job type so that your CV can be customized to the unique requirements of each industry. Find out what skills and qualifications to showcase in each CV by looking at the job description, researching the position and industry and talking to people in the industry, then highlight the skills and expertise that make you a perfect match. Employers want to hire people who are focused and specifically interested in their industry and company, so having a generic unfocused CV with a very vague objective statement and skills inventory will fail to capture the employer’s attention or convince them that you are the best fit for the job.
2. You omitted a cover letter
Every CV should be accompanied by a cover letter to personalize your CV and communicate in a precise, specific manner your objectives and the specific value-added you will bring to the job. The cover letter should be short and specific and should leave the employer in no doubt as to your interest in the company and industry and your unique qualifications for the job you are targeting. Cover letters, like the CV, should be tailored to the company and industry and should communicate in no uncertain terms the suitability of the experiences and qualifications listed on your CV to the job at hand as well as your enthusiasm to work for the specific company. A CV sent without a cover letter will lack the ‘personal touch’ and will likely be lost in the fray.
3. Poor follow up on CV
The average employer is inundated with CVs on an ongoing basis and is more likely than not to add your CV to the pile, pending possible future follow-up. To ensure your CV is acted on and does not get buried with the rest, you MUST follow up in a diligent manner. Remember, the purpose of the CV and cover letter is to get an interview so call each employer shortly after you send the CV and communicate you are calling to follow up, ensure receipt and arrange for a face-to-face interview. Prepare a very short ‘soft sell’ for the phone conversation to ‘educate’ the employer as to who you are and why you are uniquely suited to the job and ‘excite’ him to want to meet you in person in an interview situation to talk further details.
4. Lack of preparation for the interview
Many candidates make it to the interview stage and disappoint the employer with their obvious lack of preparation for the meeting. Poor preparation includes slovenliness in researching the company, not being up-to-date on industry news, not understanding what the job requirements are and not having answers to common interview questions. You must, must, must enter the interview armed with the maximum amount of knowledge about the company, industry and specific job so you can then tailor your answers specifically and position your skills and past experience in a manner that demonstrates your unique suitability for the position in question and the valuable contributions you can make to the company.
5. Unprofessional attire for interview
First impressions go a long way and you may be hard-pressed undoing the damage if you send out a wrong message with your interview attire. Dressing too casually or completely inappropriately for the interview may communicate a lack of respect for professional norms of conduct as well as an unprofessional non-conformist attitude overall. Always aim to err on the conservative side in your attire with crisp, clean business attire and avoid tight, casual or loud clothes as well as unnecessary accessories and excess make-up for women.
6. Unprofessional behaviour during interview
The interviewer is screening you during the course of the interview for suitability to the job at hand and is assessing you in terms of your ability to conform in a professional way to the requirements of the job and the company culture; any unprofessional conduct will reflect negatively on you and is likely to immediately take you out of the running. This includes any behaviour that shows a lack of respect for the interviewer and professional norms of conduct such as arriving late, arriving unprepared, aggressive or unprofessional body language, being unfamiliar with your CV, treating the interviewer in a condescending or overly familiar manner, talking at length about your personal life and problems and/or obvious exaggerations or outright lies about your work history. It is very helpful to read some literature about body language and interview skills if you are relatively new to the interviewing scene and unfamiliar with the basics.
7. Lack of interest in the company
It is surprising how many jobseekers will make it to the interview stage and then demonstrate a total ambivalence and lack of interest in the company not to mention an obvious failure to research it in detail. Employers want to hire people who will be keen, enthusiastic members of the team and will carry the company banner with pride; the last thing they want are disgruntled employees who are less than enthusiastic about the company’s products and bottom line and will negatively impact the company culture. You must show a familiarity with and interest in the company and ask intelligent, relevant questions, prepared beforehand, that demonstrate you have done your homework and are very excited about joining the team. Any reluctance you have about joining the company should be kept to yourself at this early stage of the process; concentrate your efforts during your interviews on securing the position.
8. Unclear about value-added to company
If you are unconvinced about your value-added to the company, it is less than likely that you will be able to convince the employer. Make sure as you sit in the interview seat that you are intimately aware of the requirements of the position and can directly relate your past work history, aptitudes, qualifications and skills to the requirements of the position. Imagine yourself already on the job and communicate to the employer how you will contribute significantly and in record time to the company’s bottom line and how you will excel in performance and exceed targets and expectations. Make sure to include every skillset and past success in bringing to bear how you will positively impact the company’s performance. If you already see yourself on the job and can mentally apply your past successes and skills inventory to achieving your new targets you are more likely to convince the employer across the table from you of your unique and undisputed suitability for the position.
9. Poor follow up after interview
Many candidates make the mistake of assuming the ball is outside their court following the interview stage and fail to follow-up, thereby losing what was a viable job opportunity. You must follow up! Oftentimes the interviewer has had to travel following an interview, is bogged down with a heavy workload and tight deadlines or is simply waiting for you to follow-up to determine your proactivity, energy level and interest in the job. Immediately after an interview while the questions and answers are fresh in your mind write a thank you letter to the employer which leaves him in no uncertain terms as to your interest in the company and your unique suitability for the job. Reiterate the qualifications and past successes that are immediately applicable to the position and emphasize any points that support your case and add gravitas to your application. If you would like to make up for any important facts that were missed out during the interview process or if you feel there are specific strengths you want to highlight following what your learned during the interview, this is your opportunity. Then follow up on the thank you letter with a phone conversation reiterating your interest in the position and enquiring what the next steps should be.
10. Poor reference checks
Before giving a prospective employer names of references make sure you are very familiar with their professional opinion of you and there will be no unpleasant surprises. Many a successful job application has ground to a halt because of unsatisfactory or outright negative feedback from references at or after the job offer stage. Wherever possible, get the references in writing so that you are intimately aware of the feedback your reference source has on you and there is no margin for error.
Muhammad Naveed Rahmat